15 Jun

Law and Order – White House Crimes Unit

When Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed as the special prosecutor (by acting Attorney General James Comey, with the approval of John Ashcroft no less) on the Valerie Plame leak matter he knew full well what he was getting into.  Not being a well-known commodity on the national level, politicians (blue and red) questioned his credentials.  When asked about this, Fitzgerald presciently stated that “One day I read I was a Republican hack, another day I read I was a Democratic hack.  The only thing I did between those two days was sleep.”  As it would turn out, that was probably the last restful night of sleep he got.

To many uninformed partisan politicos out there, he served as a whipping boy for both camps.  When he indicted only Scooter Libby, national Democratic politicians and bloggers complained of the lack of an indictment on Karl Rove and began to posit conspiracy theories (it was set up in advance by the White House that someone would take the fall as long as it wasn’t Karl); while the national Republican politicians and bloggers cried foul – Libby didn’t violate the law as to outing Plame, so who cares if he lied under oath about it (where were they when Clinton was facing impeachment?).   You could almost look at what happened and think that Fitzgerald took the political out – charging someone but not Rove, which allegedly would have been professional suicide for him.

The truth of the matter, as it often is, is far less exciting.  Fitzgerald made a series of sound principled decisions.  He decided that he could not charge Rove or Libby or anyone else with outing a spy because the President had authorized it, albeit for purely political reasons.  He decided that he could not charge Rove with perjury because, as the criminal statue allows, Rove corrected his testimony – albeit when facing the very real threat of a perjury charge.  He chose to charge Libby with perjury and obstruction because, as a prosecutor in general and as the Special Counsel on the case, he knew how important honest testimony is to conducting a legitimate investigation (no testimony is better than false testimony), and how Libby’s uncorrected lies had shielded others (hello Dick Cheney) from criminal scrutiny and prolonged and obstructed the investigation.

So, with a jury verdict on all counts and a sentence of imprisonment tagged on Libby, Fitzgerald walks away vindicated, the rule of law is upheld, and our system of justice honored.  Sounds good to me.

Well, not so fast.  Here come the Republican primary candidates.  First up, Rudy Guiliani, a former U.S. Attorney in NYC no less.  Surely, he would understand the importance of Fitzgerald’s principled decisions, the jury’s considered verdict, and the judge’s sentence.  He would have Fitzgerald’s back.  Guiliani, previously somewhat circumspect but now feeling the heat of a crowded field, said at the last debate “I mean, the sentence was grossly excessive in a situation in which, at the beginning, the prosecutor knew who the leak was, and he knew a crime wasn’t committed” and that the sentence was “excessive punishment.” Nice. Of course if Libby’s last name happened to be Gotti…

Mitt “Double Guantanamo” Romney, not to be outstupidified in inane comments, went even further and stated Fitzgerald “clearly abused prosecutorial discretion” and was on “a political vendetta” in pursuing perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Libby when he knew the former White House aide was not the original source of the leak. Can’t you hear the Scarecrow singing “if I only had a brain……”

Finally, there is Fred Thompson.  Like Guiliani, he is an attorney and he is a former Assistant United States Attorney.  He even plays an elected district attorney on television in the disgustingly popular Law and Order.  Surely, he can at least fake some support for principled decisions.  Well, no.  As it turns out, he is on Libby’s strategy and fundraising teams and has probably promised Libby a seat at his table should Thompson be the next resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Maybe Thompson could at least be professional in his comments in supporting Libby. 

Thompson starts off generic enough, repeating his criticism of all special prosecutors “When you put too much power in the hands of unelected, unaccountable people who have every incentive to focus massive resources onto one particular person — who gets the plaudits in the media for doing so — it’s a bad thing. And many, many times an injustice can occur.”  He then goes further, claiming Fitzgerald brought these charges to justify his existence and expenses as the Special Prosecutor.  Finally, he derides Fitzgerald’s skill and vision as an attorney by stating Fitzgerald is “a fella who can see miles and miles in a straight line, but had no peripheral vision at all and didn’t realize apparently that he was caught up in a bureaucratic political dogfight.”  Right, Fitzgerald didn’t understand the political minefield he was in when he was personally interviewed Bush and Cheney, when he succeeded in having reporters held in contempt for holding back sources, when he was routinely be kicked around in absentia on Sunday morning talkshows.  Yeah, he didn’t get it.

Guys like Rudy, Mittsy, and Freddie will never get it. They will never understand, appreciate, or have use for someone like Fitzgerald or Comey, even though they may be of the same political party.  Comey appreciated the seriousness of the potential crime, so he appointed a bulldog like Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald dug out the facts and matched them to the principle, so he sought the indictment and got it.  He sought the conviction, and got it.  He sought a prison sentence, and got it.  He sought the truth and justice, and got it.  Rudy, Mittsy, and Freddie simply seek the brass ring, and the price of them getting it is too high for all of us. 

So, as Libby heads toward his inescapable pardon and as the rhetoric heats up, all around, remember that from the start to the end, someone tried to and did make the right decisions, followed and honored the rule of law, and kept it professional the whole time. Somebody got it. Unfortunately, as we have seen with the fired U.S. Atorneys, that and a buck won’t even get you a cup of coffee today.  May the good reputation of Pat Fitzgerald rest in peace.


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The credential issue had to do with he is a criminal conspiracy investigator, how bad CIA agnets are sent to jail. Plame immediately filed a civil law suit.

The McGlynn

Boo, well done. A better article on the subject I have not read.

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